Business schools need to revamp MBA curriculums

For many top and mid-level managers, the current reality involves making decisions based on dashboards created by big data. Are we preparing future managers for this scenario?
IIM Bangalore campus.(Mint file)
IIM Bangalore campus.(Mint file)
Published on Mar 30, 2020 03:22 PM IST
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ByRoshan Lal Raina

The new era of the digital revolution has brought several changes to the business world. There is a significant focus on automation and technology-based problem-solving. Decision making has become highly dependent on analytics which is often based on real-time data, machine learning as well as interconnectivity. For many top and mid-level managers, the current reality involves making decisions based on dashboards created by big data. Are we preparing future managers for this scenario?

Indian Business Schools have long been preferred by most companies to recruit talent for functional roles. Mid-level management positions are often offered to students with Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the top tier B-schools, with the expectation that these candidates can learn in a fast-paced environment and hit ground running from day one. However, B-schools have not prepared most of them for the business process functions of today’s companies, as they lack the skill set to use the latest technologies. If we take a sneak peek into the current MBA curriculum, we find that the program focuses on traditional business management subjects like - Legal Aspects of Business, Managerial Economics, Managerial Accounting, Quantitative Techniques, Organizational Behaviour, Principles of Marketing, etc. There are very few B-schools which have included courses which are necessary for meeting the requirements of current and newly emerging job profiles like Data Visualization for Business Intelligence, Business Analytics, Design Thinking for Problem Solving, etc. Therefore, the need of the hour is tobuild a firm foundation that has the necessary skill sets to help students take their corporate journey forward. While basic management theory and principles are necessary for financial analysis and corporate strategy, this knowledge is no longer sufficient due to the changing business environment that modern companies operate in. This is proven by the new job designations and profiles that keep coming up across industries. Therefore, it is important to re-think and re-create the curriculum because our economy, industries, and technology are changing rapidly.

There has also been a decline in the number of candidates opting for MBA courses as students are opting for newer career options. The current generation has a contemporary outlook which encourages them to explore newer career avenues where new technology is predominant. Attracting quality talent requires that business schools too use technology as part of curriculum and delivery so as to meet the aspirations of students and requirements of the industry.

Business schools are able to understand these requirements and design suitable industry curriculums that will be able to nurture decision-makers and leaders for a rapidly changing world. The focus on revamping the curriculum has to be in line with the industry ready and future-ready skills which will equip students to survive now and also succeed in the next decade. What’s now expected from an MBA graduate is the ability to be ‘job-ready and industry-leading’, not just ‘job and industry-ready’. For students, inculcating the mantra of ‘lifelong learning’ is the most important aspect in order to succeed and stay relevant.

Corporate houses recruiting MBA candidates expect them to explore the unfamiliar and have a better understanding of cross-functional business processes. The new age MBA graduate must be able to use tools of technology to produce sustainable business results. The leading Indian B-Schools have already started adding changes to their curriculum. Some of them have gone beyond adding new courses. They have re-created courses and teaching methods and are also trying to develop an appreciation for the human side of the business. After all, technology cannot yet replace skills like effective communication, creativity, and leadership.

As businesses are going global, there’s a need to add an understanding of the global industry perspective, society, and technology along with management education. An entrepreneurial mindset too must be encouraged and developed so that new leaders can be nurtured at a young age. Industry mentorship, collaborative assignments, live industry projects to ensure experiential learning along with exposure to all aspects of management. This is a sharp departure from the old style of pre-decided specialization.

B-schools must create formats that increase the emphasis on skills and competence, practical assignments and processes which foster creativity and analytical discipline. Further, they can introduce the concept of Global Virtual Teams to encourage working across time zones, cultures and language barriers. Companies now require culturally aware and empathetic managers who are able to handle geographically spread, multi-cultural teams. By the time recent graduates make their way into the periphery of the C-suite, they’ll no longer just be responsible for understanding competition and small, homogenized teams. They need to learn how to work with diverse teams, functions, and technology at geographically diverse locations from their place of origin.

The implications of these changes will be to produce a diverse set of future-ready skillsets and competencies which will equip students with a framework to face professional situations and succeed in their career and clear roadblocks.

(Author Roshan Lal Raina is Vice Chancellor at JK Lakshmipat University, Jaipur. Views expressed here are personal.)

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Monday, December 06, 2021